Texas Medical Orgs Seek Futile Care Law Compromise, Pro-Life Groups Split

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Apr 25, 2007   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Texas Medical Orgs Seek Futile Care Law Compromise, Pro-Life Groups Split Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
April 25
, 2007

Austin, TX (LifeNews.com) — Sensing that opposition to the state’s futile care law is growing, medical groups in Texas are hoping for a compromise on a bill that would revise it. The law, which allows medical facilities to give families just 10 days to find care for a loved one, has come under intense criticism for hurting patients.

Under the statute, medical facilities can determine that a patient is too far gone to receive further care and they can tell families that they will stop lifesaving medical treatment in 10 days.

That leaves patients and their loved ones with little time to find another medical facility willing to accept the patient’s transfer.

Sen. Bob Deuell, a physician and a Greenville Republican, is one of the prime sponsors of the bill to fix the problem.

After previously opposing the measure eight months ago, the Houston Chronicle reports that the Texas Hospital Association and Texas Medical Association are planning to tell a committee today that they support the change allowing more time as long as the law isn’t scrapped entirely.

Dinah Welsh, director of state affairs for the THA, told the newspaper that the group favors a bill keeping a finite time rather than Deuell’s, which makes it open-ended.

Rep. Dianne Delisi, chairman of the state House public health committee holding a hearing on the issue today, is the sponsor of the compromise bill.

It would lengthen to seven days from two the amount of time a family gets notice about a possible decision to revoke lifesaving care and changes the 10-day window to 21 days.

The measure also prohibits medical facilities form invoking the law when a patient’s only lifesaving treatment is receiving food and water — something that would help patients like Terri Schiavo, whose former husband won the legal right to end her life two years ago.

The bills have caused a split in the pro-life community with Texas Right to Life and the disability rights movement backing the Deull bill and Texas Alliance for Life and the Texas Catholic Conference supporting the Delisi measure.

"I think things are going in the right direction, but there’s still a huge chasm that needs to be bridged," said Elizabeth Graham, director of Texas Right to Life. "Rep. Delisi’s bill still gives all the power to the hospitals."

Texas Alliance for Life emphasized the compromise nature of the Delisi bill in a letter to her.

"We support CSHB 3474 because it balances the autonomy of patients to make
their own health care decisions with the rights physicians and other health care
providers to not provide unethical treatments," the group said.

During a hearing on the Duell bill Lanore Dixon, who battled with St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital over the fate of her sister Andrew Clark represents many families who have had problems with the futile care provision.

"This law allowed a hospital to steal precious time from our family during a loved one’s end days," she said, according to the Houston Chronicle. "Was that really necessary?"

Clark, 54, suffered complications following open heart surgery and required a ventilator and dialysis to survive. Her motor control faculties were damaged but, her family says her cognitive abilities were unaffected.

The hospital informed her family that her medical care would be discontinued in 10 days after a hospital committee decided Clark’s condition was beyond hope and refused further medical treatment.

It took legal action from a family attorney to prevent Clark’s treatment from being withheld, in an act of euthanasia.

Cynthia Deason, who took Houston’s Memorial Hermann Hospital to court to stop it from taking her disabled daughter off life support added, "I just don’t want anybody else to go through what I’ve gone through."

Related web sites:
Texas Right to Life – https://www.texasrighttolife.com
Yexas Alliance for Life – https://www.texasallianceforlife.org